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Hank Steinbrenner impersonates father in children's film

New York Yankees general partner Hank Steinbrenner sits

New York Yankees general partner Hank Steinbrenner sits in his office during an interview at Legends Field. (January 24, 2008) Credit: AP

Hank Steinbrenner stepped inside a Tampa movie studio Thursday afternoon, sat on a stool, put on a set of headphones and summoned his best impersonation of his father.

Playing the role of George Steinbrenner for the upcoming animated children's film "Henry and Me" was not the least bit difficult, Hank told Newsday by phone. Actually, he described the job as "pretty simple."

In real life, however, filling the large shoes of his father could never be that simple. That's why since George Steinbrenner stepped aside as Yankees owner two years ago because of declining health, all four of his children have become more involved in different capacities.

While Hal acts as the "control person" - the front man for the organization on all baseball and business matters - Hank has retreated far from the spotlight after his initial splash on the New York media scene. Since then he has increasingly turned his attention to children's charities, Yankees adviser Ray Negron said.

"Any time I needed Hank to do something for a cause,'' Negron said, "he's never let me down.''

The reason Hank allowed the spotlight to shine on him Thursday - albeit only momentarily - was to help the film, a story he said he enjoyed because it's about a sick child who gains strength from meeting his Yankees heros. He feels good that attaching the Yankee name to it will extend its reach.

"There's more Yankees fans in the country by far than any other American sports team in any sport," Hank said, "and that obviously includes more fans that are kids."

Joe Avalon, CEO of Manhattan-based Creative Group, which is producing the film, said each actor has donated his pay to a charity. Hank earmarked his to benefit children in Haiti who survived the earthquake, saying he was inspired by a story he saw on the news about an orphanage that had been robbed by looters.

"To steal from babies, literally stealing candy from babies, when I saw that, it really ticked me off," Hank said. "It shows how bad the situation really is down there. The first thing we have to do down there is make sure all the kids in Haiti are OK.''

Hank's feelings for the Yankees are as strong as they've always been; he's just chosen to keep his opinions to himself. Regarding their chances of repeating as world champions, he said only, "I'm pretty confident" before adding: "We're pretty happy, pretty excited about this year. I'm real pleased with the two trades Brian [Cashman] made."

Earlier in the day, he told The Associated Press that Derek Jeter will be taken care of when he becomes a free agent after this season. "Jeter's place in Yankee history is obvious,'' he said, "so I think you can pretty much assume from there."

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